FILM 309 Production

Film 309 Production is a unique practicum class enabling students to learn from practicing film professionals by working with them in a production setting. The course combines both classroom meetings (depending on the location of the instructor, sometimes virtually) with a shoot weekend, in which the students serve as crew as the instructor shoots a work on campus. The weekend enables the students to gain hands-on learning as the instructor applies the material covered in the class in the context of an actual production shoot. Based on both the lecture and practicum learning experiences, students also produce individual films as part of the coursework. Offerings of Film 309 have been taught by directors Justin Francis, Ben Bowman and Jeff Bemiss.

Justin Francis, Director, Music Video Director, Photographer, Cinematographer

Topic: Music Video

Los Angeles-based director Justin Francis ( has created music videos for such artists Eminem, Carly Rae Jepson, The Roots, Demi Lovato, Alicia Keys and Nicole Scherzinger. Typically, a music video director develops the concept for the video (described in a treatment) and directs its production, so the video is truly a creation of the director from concept through final product. Professor Francis drew from his extensive experience as a music video director, as well as industry contacts, to provide students with original treatments for a variety of music videos.  These treatments not only served as models of successful treatments, but also allowed students to compare the original concepts to the final commercial versions of the videos.  Over the course of the semester, Professor Francis guided students through the process of creating their own music videos, from developing and writing treatments, through shooting and editing their final projects.  Key to this learning experience was following Professor Francis’s process as he developed a treatment for the song “If You Wanna”, which he then filmed on campus during the shoot weekend with the students working as crew.  Like many music video shoots, the entire video was shot in one day, allowing the students to experience the pace, focus and flexibility needed to complete filming in the restricted time period.  Students  applied their experiences from the shoot weekend to the making of their own music videos, which were screened in a Music Video Festival at the end of the semester. 



Ben Bowman, Director
Topic: Directing the Actor
Topic: Directing the Camera

New York-based director Ben Bowman’s two offerings of Film 309, Directing the Actor and Directing the Camera, allowed for in-depth study of a single aspect of directing.  In Directing the Actor, the focus was on communicating with actors to elicit the desired interpretation of the material.  Using techniques such as asking questions and “As if”, a variety of methods were explored for providing notes to actors to help refine their performances. Topics in script analysis and interpretation were also explored.  As a final project, the class was given scripts for three ambiguous scenes with minimal dialogue, including a scene from Professor Bowman’s feature film Knucklehead.  Each student selected one of the scripts, and then developed, directed and edited their own interpretation of the scene.  During the shoot weekend, Professor Bowman chose one of the scripts to shoot to model his directing approach for the students.  The weekend also included a workshop on auditioning actors.

Directing the Camera explored the power of camera of placement and movement, as well as mise-en-scène, in storytelling.  The importance of location and shooting effectively within the space was explored. The contributions to storytelling of color pallet, the impact of lighting the location and the actors, and the movement of actors within the space were also covered.  During the shoot weekend, students worked with Professor Bowman through all the aspects of planning and shooting a scene, from casting and wardrobe choice, through lighting, camera direction and shooting.  Students were required to write and shoot their own short films to demonstrate the creative application of the approaches and techniques explored in class.

Both classes ended with screenings of the student films at Cinestudio, the independent art cinema on campus.  The films from the Directing the Actor class were shown with the Connecticut debut of Professor Bowman’s feature film Knucklehead.


Jeff Bemiss, Director
Topic: Documentary

When searching for a topic for the shoot weekend film, a student Professor Bemiss’s class suggested a story about his 26-year-old cousin, James Colburn, who was born with a condition called Fragile X Syndrome.  The class traveled to the Colburn family’s home for their shoot weekend to interview James, his parents and his brother. While Fragile X Syndrome results in a spectrum of intellectual and physical disabilities, the film shows how James remains a child at heart, finding joy in the smallest things and using his sense of comedic timing to inspire those around him. The resulting film by Professor Bemiss, Coaching Colburn, has won multiple awards at film festivals across the country.